Winter Pruning: Which Trees and Shrubs to Trim Now

Keeping your trees and shrubs trimmed is an important step to ensuring a healthy, beautiful landscape. Many trees and shrubs benefit from pruning in the colder winter months. When pants are dormant, they are less stressed and more resilient during the pruning process. Removing dead or diseased branches at this time can prevent the spread of infections and promote regrowth in the Spring. 

How to Prune Evergreens This Winter? 

Trees and shrubs can be pruned in the colder months without the risk of spreading infections or pests. Evergreens, such as pine and fir, don’t need pruning, but pruning during winter can allow sunlight and air circulation to reach deeper needles and encourage growth. Pruning any evergreens during autumn can make them susceptible to winter injury. 

Which Trees to Prune This Winter 

Deciduous trees are the easiest to prune during winter to prepare them for the warmer months. Maple, oak, elm, ash, birch and beech are common trees in residential areas. Common pests for oaks are sap-eating beetles that spread the oak wilt virus, but they’re dormant until March. Other trees to trim during winter include apple, Hawthorne, butternut, ironwood and linden. Don’t prune trees that flower in spring, such as dogwood, redbud, pear and cherry. Removing the buds during winter would stop them from blooming during spring. Conifers don’t need much trimming, but removing lower branches allows access to the rest of the tree. 

Which Shrubs to Prune This Winter 

Many shrubs need winter pruning to prepare for the warmer months. Prune back spring flowering shrubs after blooms so new blooms can grow the following season. Renewal pruning removes roughly a third of the stems to allow new ones to grow. Pruning a shrub helps maintain the form of the shrub as well. Shrubs can recover from renewal pruning more easily while dormant. Shrubs to prepare in the winter include alpine currant, barberry, burning bush, dogwood, honeysuckle and smokebush. Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs such as magnolias, lilacs and azaleas during winter. Wait until spring to prune shrubs with spring flowers for a better bloom. 

Prune Dead Wood and Foliage This Winter 

Winter is a great time to trim away dead or diseased wood since the foliage isn’t blocking the view. Pruning dead wood should start where it meets the stem or larger branch. If there are patches of dead wood or disease, it’s best to remove the entire branch. Remove old or multi-stemmed shrubs at the base of the plant. Evergreen trees keep their foliage but turn brown to make the problem areas noticeable. 

Winter Pruning Promotes New Growth 

Pruning new shrubs in the winter can prepare them for springtime, which includes panicle hydrangeas. Panicle hydrangeas are blooming shrubs that bloom in summer instead of spring. Smooth hydrangeas bloom on new wood, and winter pruning encourages heavy growth during spring. Cutting about two feet of an overgrown shrub gives them support and prevents flopping plants. Pruning crape myrtles during winter controls the height, and removing stems or sprouts can shape the shrub. 

Winter Pruning for Healthier Plants 

Trees and shrubs enter dormancy during the colder months, and it’s easier to prune the plant life. But it is important to understand the best pruning and trimming times for your varieties of trees and shrubs. While you may be able to tackle smaller trees and shrubs, it’s best to leave larger limbs to professional tree trimmers as it can be a dangerous to yourself and your home. If you are unsure of the species of trees in your yard or the best way to care for them, you might also consider consulting with an arborist. Keeping your trees and shrubs trimmed will help your yard thrive for years to come. 

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